Rincon village is one of the highest traffic areas in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector.
The sector is roughly 300 miles along the river.
On one of the coldest days of 2017 in Hidalgo County, children as young as two years old are crossing the Rio Grande River.
The water is near freezing and the bitter cold is not stopping smugglers from sending over anyone they can profit from.
KVEO News Center 23’s Derick Garcia is on a ride-along with Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas.
For hours, Agent Villegas and other patrol units in the sector had not encountered any activity.
Shortly before noon, a Guatemalan father crossed with his teenage son and daughter. They were not prepared for the cold weather.
The family unit was wrapped in emergency thermal blankets to fight off hypothermia.
Border Patrol classifies illegal alien crossings with children and an adult as ‘family units’.
It’s early January and the family units crossing are wearing only the clothes on their back.
Had agents not been patrolling the clothing would not enough to brave the elements for long explained Agent Villegas.
“We’re looking for people that are in distress.” Said Agent Villegas wearing a thick Border Patrol issues jacket.
Security is top priority and the Guatemalan father is searched before being transported to a processing facility.
“A smuggler doesn’t care he puts people on a raft try to get them over but that person falls in the water he’s not going to help them.” Said Villegas shortly after a Honduran mother cross with her two-year-old daughter.
She’s hoping someone up north will house her as she goes through the immigration process.
The mother said, while sitting in a transport vehicle wrapped in a blanket clutching her father, staying in her native country would is too dangerous.
“They don’t know where we [Border Patrol] are at. They don’t know if these people are going to walk for one minute or one hour.” Said Villegas. “The dangers that they’re looking at is not knowing where they’re at. So, they can be walking in circles for hours and they haven’t eaten in days or slept in days or had any type of water. And that, to me, is very important that the public knows these people [smugglers] are ruthless like that.” Said Agent Villegas.
Agents like Villegas are on the river to deter smugglers from sending anyone across the freezing water.
“Our concern is the smuggler is putting people in the water in 38 degree temperatures and if they fall in the water you looking at a real possible danger… somebody drowning, facing instant hypothermia once they get the water. We want to make sure that we’re here to deter that” Said Agent Villegas.
“At the same time we’re here to help people once they make it on our side but at the same time, if we can get that smuggler, we can deter him in any way, we’re going to try the best we can” Said Agent Villegas before the family units were transported to an immigration processing facility.
In the month of December border patrol average 850 apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.
For a look back at our continuing coverage in KVEO’s Border Lines series click here.